The Golden Age of Detective Fiction was an era of classic murder mystery novels, predominantly from the 1920s and 1930s. Well known writers of the Golden Age include Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ronald Knox, Anthony Berkeley and G. K. Chesterton.
But these books have roots in earlier works of detective fiction, and there are still mysteries being written today that would fit in with the ‘feel’ of the Golden Age (Anthony Horowitz is an excellent example of a modern day writer of contemporary ‘Golden Age’ mysteries).
There is a debate around which book can be called the first mystery story, but not many would argue that the first modern detective story is The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1841. Other early examples of the mystery writers are:
Although these writer’s (and all the other early mystery writers I have missed) would not generally be included in a list of writers of Golden Age Mysteries, they were influential in the development of the mystery genre, so I have made the decision that I will include any reviews I do of these older books with the writers who are more generally accepted as being Golden Age.
The Golden Age is also seen by many to be predominantly Western, with most of the best known authors being English. Most of the books I will be including here were written by members of the Detection Club, a group formed in London by Anthony Berkeley and Dorothy L Sayers in 1930. But there are equivalents of the Golden Age around the world, and many of these books are now being translated into English. I’ve recently discovered the Japanese equivalent (honkaku) with the works of Seishi Yokomizo and will be including his, and other Japanese honkaku writers’ books in this reading project.
The rules of Golden Age mysteries were codified in 1929 by Ronald Knox in his ‘Ten Commandments’. According to Knox, a detective story “must have as its main interest the unravelling of a mystery; a mystery whose elements are clearly presented to the reader at an early stage in the proceedings, and whose nature is such as to arouse curiosity, a curiosity which is gratified at the end.”
Knox's ‘Ten Commandments’ are:
S. S. Van Dine wrote a more detailed list of rules in the article “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories” in 1928. These are known as Van Dine’s Commandments (listed at the end of my review for The Benson Murder case).
For The Golden Age of Detective Fiction project I intend to read as many books from the era as I can. Below is a list of books already reviewed on this website.
Click the table headers to sort the table accordingly, or use the search bar to limit the list:
|Christie, Agatha||4:50 From Paddington||1957||Fiction|
|Christie, Agatha||And Then There Were None||1939||Fiction|
|Van Dine, S.S.||The Benson Murder Case||1926||Fiction|
|Christie, Agatha||The Body in the Library||1942||Fiction|
|Jerrold, Ianthe||Dead Man's Quarry||1930||Fiction|
|Gilbert, Anthony||Death in Fancy Dress||1933||Fiction|
|Edwards, Martin||The Golden Age of Murder||2015||Non-Fiction|
|Carr, John Dickson||Hag's Nook||1933||Fiction|
|Carr, John Dickson||The Hollow Man||1935||Fiction|
|Yokomizo, Seishi||The Honjin Murders||1946||Fiction|
|Doyle, Arthur Conan||The Hound of the Baskevilles||1902||Fiction|
|Croft, Freeman Wills||Inspector French's Greatest Case||1924||Fiction|
|Yokomizo, Seishi||The Inugami Curse||1950||Fiction|
|Orczy, Emma||Lady Molly of Scotland Yard||1910||Fiction|
|Iles, Francis||Malice Aforethought||1931||Fiction|
|Christie, Agatha||The Man in the Brown Suit||1924||Fiction|
|Wade, Henry||The Missing Partners||1928||Fiction|
|Waye, Cecil||Murder at Monk's Barn||1931||Fiction|
|Christie, Agatha||The Murder of Roger Ackroyd||1926||Fiction|
|Christie, Agatha||A Murder is Announced||1950||Fiction|
|Milne, A.A.||The Red House Mystery||1922||Fiction|
|Freeman, R. Austin||The Red Thumb Mark||1907||Fiction|
|Queen, Ellery||The Roman Hat Mystery||1929||Fiction|
|Christie, Agatha||Sad Cypress||1940||Fiction|
|Tey, Josephine||The Singing Sands||1952||Fiction|
|Jerrold, Ianthe||The Studio Crime||1929||Fiction|
|Knox, Ronald||The Three Taps||1927||Fiction|
|Hare, Cyril||Tragedy at Law||1942||Fiction|
|Worsley, Lucy||A Very British Murder||2013||Non-Fiction|
|Dorothy L. Sayers||Whose Body?||1923||Fiction|